One of the places I keep returning to, along with Palluau-sur-Indre, is the medieval village of Mennetou-sur-Cher, up the river about 40 km/25 mi. from Saint-Aignan. What is it about the place that pulls me back?
One reason I keep driving American visitors over there, I think, is that the town seems to be so lost in time. Three of its old tower gates are still intact, along with some of the ancient ramparts. The narrow streets of the village are closed to car traffic, sauf riverains — local traffic only.
Like Palluau, the place hasn't been prettied up. If anything, Palluau is more alive and less touched by the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries than Mennetou is. Both, however, feel a little like ghost towns whenever I visit them. There is very little commerce in either — a café, a little restaurant, a boulangerie, a small grocery store, a maison de la presse for newspapers and magazine, and a couple of shops selling antiques, junk, or crafts and gifts. I never see very many people on the streets in Mennetou or Palluau.
The thing about Mennetou that makes it seem to have been more badly manhandled than Palluau has been is the fact that it is squeezed in between a main road and a rail line. Of course, the village was there first. The Route Nationale 76, a two-lane highway that links the city of Tours to the big town of Vierzon, is the little town's main street, and it's a grimy one. Until recently, with the opening of the parallel A85 autoroute just north of town, big trucks rumbled through the narrow street one after another, all day long. The walls of the buildings and storefronts on main street are black with soot.
The railway line also runs parallel to the old route nationale and the new autoroute, between the two and just on Mennetou's northern edge. Several times a day, passenger as well as freight trains speed by the village's medieval Porte d'En-Haut, the big stone tower at the top of the old walled village. They don't stop, as far as I can tell — there's no sign of a train station.
The world speeds by, motorized, while Mennetou sits there immobile, feeling a little forgotten.